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Am I Wrong To Change My Name?

My name is spelled Melanie, which is pronounced MEH-luh-nee, but my parents pronounce it mi-LAH-nee. After 30 years of correcting people, I'm ready to legally correct. I work with the public and I'm tired of the confusion. My folks are against it and feel they made no mistakes because some unknown librarian confirmed the spelling.

Please help! I'm I wrong for legally changing my name? And what's the correct spelling?

- Melanie, for now

This Unknown Librarian sounds like an object of faith, an untouchable authority your parents cling to even in the face of 30 years of overwhelming evidence. Has any librarian ever been granted such exalted status?

Your parents believe, of course, because they want to believe. We all become deeply attached to the names we give our children. After 30 years as mom and dad to a Melanie, it's hard for your parents to let go of the spelling -- and all too easy for them to take your practical decision as a personal reproach. But the plain fact is that in American English, Melanie is reliably stressed on the first syllable, with an "eh" vowel sound.

Perhaps your parents' mysterious librarian was from another country. Or perhaps he or she was simply making a game effort to answer an unanswerable question: "What is the 'correct' spelling of the girl's name pronounced "mi-LAH-nee"? There is no "correct" spelling, because it's not a traditional name. Milani, though, is a surname related to the familiar Milano, and should be pronounced the way you want.

As a grown woman, you have plenty of experience living with YOUR name, and every right to want its sound and spelling to match. To soften the blow for your parents, explain that you're not rejecting the lovely name they chose for you. You're just helping the public to pronounce it right.


January 28, 2013 4:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree that letting your parents know you love your name, you just want everyone else to get it right might be a good way to approach it. Or, you could simply not tell them & let them continue to spell it how they want (which they might do anyway). I mean, how often will your parents need to see any of your official legal documents? I'm thinking probably not very often-if at all.

The bottom line is, your parents gave you a name that they lovingly chose for you. But once they gave it away it became yours to do with as you see fit.

January 28, 2013 4:07 PM
By Juli (not verified)

I had a friend in junior high named Melany, pronounced [mə 'lɑ: ni] (roughly meh-LAW-nee). She was from Indonesia. Unfortunately I lost track of her during high school, so I can't ask her about her experience with her name -- back then, I thought hers was the "normal" pronunciation, having never met a Melanie.

People have all sorts of misconceptions about name spellings; this becomes especially apparent if you start dabbling in family history and genealogy. Perhaps if you find someone in your family tree whose name is recorded five different ways in four documents (they're pretty ubiquitous!), you can convince your parents that you're not actually changing your name, just helping everyone get it right.

January 29, 2013 3:09 PM
By WordChazer (not verified)

I have a married name that many can't pronounce. After five years of marriage, I have become used to the fact and proud that people will often remember me as 'that woman with the unpronounceable name'. I like to be memorable! If you're happy to stand out in the cause of having your name spoken correctly, Milani is a lovely, feminine, pretty name. You may find yourself spelling it for some people, but at least that spelling fits with the pronunciation your parents gave you. And as for the name spelling changing across generations: oh yes. My mother has a French name, but it is only ever pronounced correctly in France. In the UK it has a totally different spelling and pronunciation, and she doesn't like that much.

January 29, 2013 4:44 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

It is your name and you have to live with it, so no you are not wrong. Remind them that you are not actually changing your name, just the spelling so people do not mispronounce the name that chose for you. They always have the option to spell it Melanie on emails and cards (if oyu are ok with that). They would only need to use Milani for legal documents.

January 30, 2013 12:07 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

just change the Melanie to MeLanie on your name tag and people will get it right and mom and dad are happy-er

January 30, 2013 1:18 PM
By Heidi (not verified)

I think Milani is a good spelling suggestion to get the right pronunciation. I wouldn't do MeLanie as the above poster suggests as most would probably read that as Mee-Lan-ee.

January 30, 2013 3:14 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I have to admit that my first guess at the pronunciation of a name spelled "Milani" would be "mee-LA-nee," because of Italian. "MeLanie" just looks like a typo.

January 30, 2013 3:42 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'd see MeLanie as Melanie with an accidental upper case L.

Milani seems to be the most obvious spelling. At least in the US, it would match how most people's pronounce Milan and Milano.

January 30, 2013 4:40 PM
By Rowan (not verified)

I have a friend named Meilani. It's pronounced may-LAH-nee, like Leilani with an M. It's not quite mi-LAH-nee, but closer than MEL-a-nee.
Melani, Milani, Milany, or Melany would all work (although I'd have a tendency to pronounce Melany the same as Melanie).

January 30, 2013 5:05 PM
By hlaredzz (not verified)

I say go for it, too. I had a co-worker named Corinne whose parents pronounced it KOR-reen. For the 3 years we worked together, our supervisor never stopped calling her Kuh-RIN. I don't think she did it on purpose - she didn't even seem to notice that the rest of us called her KOR-reen. That was get really old to live with, if you ask me.

January 30, 2013 5:53 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

There's no reason for you to even tell your parents that you changed the spelling legally. They're not going to be asking for a copy of your birth certificate, drivers' license, marriage license, voter registration, etc.

I changed my name completely almost 10 years ago, and I still haven't told my parents.

January 30, 2013 8:54 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm originally from South Africa and in Afrikaans they pronounce it mi-LAH-nee. I was horrified when I dad came to visit us in Australia and kept calling his Aussie travel agent agent mi-LAH-nee instead of MEH-luh-nee. He would not accept that there is another way of pronouncing it! Maybe our parents should meet! lol

January 31, 2013 7:18 PM
By tiktok (not verified)

I changed the spelling of my first name so that other people would pronounce it correctly - mine has an EH sound where most people in the area I live in say AH instead.

My mother is fine with it, because the way she sees it, I still have the name she gave me - I just made it so that other people use that name when they talk to me, too.

February 2, 2013 2:40 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

If you really want to legally change your name to a spelling people will correctly you could try "Millanie". Or you could go by a nick name, Millie", perhaps.

February 5, 2013 3:57 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I hve spent 40+ years trying to convince people Laurie is not pronounced the same as Lori. Change it!

February 8, 2013 9:58 PM
By Heather (not verified)

"I have spent 40+ years trying to convince people Laurie is not pronounced the same as Lori."

Good lord, I did not know those names were pronounced differently! Though I might use a longer vowel sound for Laurie. Can you give the pronunciation for them in case I ever meet you or another Laurie/Lori?

Definitely change your name, Milani! It's such a lovely pronounciation and your parents should be proud you love the name they chose. My husband has a long and complicated name that is very common and easily pronounced in his country, but it's a bomb in the US. He is legally changing his full name to the nickname he more commonly uses anyways. I don't feel bad about people not pronouncing his name correctly here though. My name is super common in the US, but they slaughter it every time in his place! I guess we're even. :)

February 11, 2013 5:52 PM
By Allison (not verified)

Why not just start spelling it differently but not change it legally? Changing it legally could be a HUGE hassle...for years. You could still legally be "Melanie" on your drivers license, passport, birth certificate and credit cards ... but just always write your name "Milani" or whatever phonetic spelling you like. And if you get pulled over for speeding or whatever, who cares if the police officer mispronounces your name? My mom goes by a nickname (Sally) that is very different than her given name (Mary). It is not on any of her identification cards, but everyone at work and church and everywhere calls her Sally, writes it that way, etc.

March 5, 2013 10:32 PM
By Beth (not verified)

Once upon a time, I met a girl named Pilar, pronounced PILL-er. Every time she told people her name, they'd say, "You mean Pilar (pee-LAHR), right?" Apparently her parents had gotten it out of a baby book without bothering to figure out how it was pronounced.

To me, Melanie pronounced Mu-LAH-nee in the U.S. is like Andrea pronounced Ahn-DRAY-uh - a somewhat plebian name Frenched up. Far better to be Milani and ditch the assumptions people may have about your parents' (or your, in the case of poor Pilar) inability to pronounce things, or their pretensions.

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May 13, 2013 11:32 AM
By Fayleigh (not verified)

There's a name called "Meliney" I think it's very pretty and it may be a good alternative spelling. When I first saw it , I thought of Me as in "mi" but not Mel.

Good luck and no I do not think it's wrong to change your name. Especially when you're an adult.

I did my first legal name change at age 9.


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